Most of us know by now that the ‘Blue Monday’ concept was originally whipped up by a travel company to help sell holidays. But that doesn’t stop the January blues from being a very real thing for some.
The excitement of Christmas has come to an end, the weather’s still gloomy and there’s pressure to keep up with our resolutions. It’s no wonder people find it harder to look after their wellbeing.
Here are some hints and tips to help you boost your mood and get the year off to a great start.
1. Get to know the symptoms of SAD
29% of adults experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) over the winter months, according to research commissioned by The Weather Channel and YouGov. Research suggests that the causes of SAD include lack of light in the winter months, a disrupted body clock, problems with melatonin and serotonin levels and cold weather contributing to low mood.
You may recognise some of the key symptoms of SAD: poor energy levels, increased anxiety, feeling irritable and general low mood. Common treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy and light therapy, though there are several things you can try at home to help combat the effects of SAD such as:
- Get as much natural sunlight as possible. Go for walks during the day, sit near windows or invest in a light box
- Look after your physical health by exercising when you can, eating a healthy diet and making sure you get enough sleep
Get more information on SAD through the resources provided by Mind, or contact your GP if you think you have SAD and need help managing the symptoms.
2. Stay on top of your finances
The average Brit spends over £600 on Christmas, so it’s no wonder finances feel stretched once we get into January. Most workers are paid early in December so the gap between pay days is much greater too. It can understandably be tough to keep your finances on track.
Managing your budget can help you to feel more in control of your money. Track your spending carefully so you’re more aware of what’s coming in and what’s going out of your account. This can help you to identify where you could cut down on spending or decide which debt repayments to prioritise.
If building up your cash reserves is a priority for you, a savings challenge could help you to make saving money fun. We often think about spending a lot more than we do about saving. Taking part in a challenge could help you to change your mindset.
Ultimately, financial resilience is all about reducing expenses and increasing savings. So combat the financial blues this January by getting your money management off to a great start.
3. Keep busy
January can feel like a particularly isolating time so it’s important to remember that anyone can experience loneliness.
You may find it helpful to take part in physical activities or hobbies that allow you to engage with others and meet new people.
If you are feeling lonely, or know anyone who may be experiencing loneliness, take a look at these tips from Mind. You could find it beneficial to talk through your feeling with a professional too – find out more on the NHS website.
4. Take care of yourself
We can get so wrapped up with keeping busy we forget to take some time for ourselves. Prioritise self-care this January, setting aside some time to do something you enjoy.
You might want to read more, listen to that podcast you never got chance to finish, try meditation, train your dog a new trick or go for a countryside walk. Think about what makes you truly relaxed and content, and plan to do a little more of that.
5. Watch what you eat and drink
It can be tempting to keep the over-indulgence of the Christmas months going into the New Year. But you might find it far better for your health to ditch the unhealthy diet in January.
Eating a balanced diet packed full of veggies not only helps to ward off illness but can also make you feel good. Treat yourself to a varied menu of soups, stews, bakes, curries and even a stir fry or two! Check out these healthy dinner ideas from the British Heart Foundation for some recipe inspiration.
If you struggle to find time to plan meals and cook, batch cooking could be just the thing for you. Cook a larger amount of food and store some portions in the freezer for later. When you’re ready to tuck into a low-hassle healthy dinner it’ll be right there waiting for you!
Limiting your alcohol intake can improve your physical wellness, too. Many people take on Alcohol Change UK’s Dry January challenge to help them keep motivated – why not give it a go?
6. Get enough sleep
It’s recommended to get between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep each night which, for some, is easier said than done!
Improve your sleep routine this January to help beat the winter blues. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, eat your main meal a few hours before bedtime, incorporate regular physical activity into your daily routine, avoid screen time before bed and create a restful sleep environment.
The NHS website has plenty of extra advice on how to fall asleep faster and sleep better.
7. Adjust your resolutions
Many of us start the New Year with high hopes and ambitious goals. But as the days and weeks roll on, it might become clear that the New Year’s resolution you set yourself simply isn’t realistic.
It can be beneficial to adjust and reset your goals in January rather than abandon them altogether, which could leave you feeling unmotivated. For example, if your goal is to walk 10,000 steps each day but you’re struggling to achieve this, reset your goal to something less prescriptive such as ‘a brisk walk each day’. This can help you to stick to your resolution without feeling overwhelmed.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Resolutions and goals are there to help you make positive life changes. But if you find they’re having a detrimental impact on your wellbeing, you don’t have to achieve them within a set period. There’s no time limit on achieving your goals.
8. Talk to someone
Whatever challenges you’re facing, you may find it helpful to talk to someone and seek the support you need.
There are many specialist organisations out there who offer a variety of services and support, including:
Luke Hilton is a Warrington-based email content writer and designer in the financial services industry. He enjoys mixing analytics and creativity and can usually be found with his head buried in stats, piecing together the patterns that make good content. In his spare time, the drive to figure things out continues with what can only be described as a love-hate relationship with DIY. With a keen love of the outdoors, Luke is usually up a mountain somewhere or in his garden growing his own oasis.
Wednesday 3rd January 2024